Oklahoma youths and educators have until Nov. 21 to submit entries in a creative writing and scholarship contest sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International.

Students must use the theme “Hunting: Sharing the Heritage” or “Archery: What I Like About Archery in the Schools and Bowhunting,” or the theme’s concepts, to develop an expository essay or short story.

Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, said the essay contest is an ideal way for youths to show their love for the outdoors and, in the process, possibly win a getaway in the great outdoors.

“The traditions of hunting and the new legacy being created by our Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program are important to Oklahoma, and this contest gives youths an important avenue to express their interest in these things,” Meek said.

To participate, students must be 11-17 years old and currently enrolled in any Oklahoma school or homeschool. Winners of the previous year’s contest are not eligible. Applicants must have successfully completed the Oklahoma hunter education course by the entry deadline, which is Nov. 21. The hunter education course can be completed free online at wildlifedepartment.com. Additionally, entries must have the Department’s student entry form attached.

The essay contest has two age categories: 11-14 and 15-17.

Winners in the age 15-17 Senior Apprentice Hunter category (one boy and one girl) will receive a guided antelope hunt either in New Mexico or in the Texas Panhandle, and winners in the 11-14 age category are competing for a scholarship within the Junior Apprentice Hunter Program at the YO Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas.

Safari Club International’s Junior Apprentice Hunter Program is a hands-on course covering topics such as the history of hunting, the ethical basis of modern sport hunting, wildlife management, field identification, tracking and interpreting sign, game cooking, and the SCI Sportsmen Against Hunger Program.

“If you don’t enter, you can’t win,” Meek said. “I encourage everyone to put in for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

One of last year’s junior essay contest winners, Hunter Thomsen of Chandler, took his winning trip to the YO Ranch this past summer. “Just being able to go out there to the YO Ranch is truly amazing, because it’s gorgeous out there,” he said.

He was able to go hunting for his first time, and he harvested a Corsican ram.

“I never thought I’d do anything like that until I won the contest. I really enjoyed it.”

Thomsen said the essay wasn’t difficult to write, and he urged any eligible student to enter the contest.

The four statewide student winners and their legal guardians will be invited to Oklahoma City to attend an awards ceremony in March. In addition, the top 25 essay entrants will receive a one-year youth membership to Safari Club International. The Oklahoma Station Chapter will reimburse travel expenses up to $500 per essay contest winner. The winning student essays will be published in the OSCSCI newsletter, “Safari Trails.” Publication qualifies the winning entries for the Outdoor Writers Association of America Youth Writing Contest. Several past national winners have come from Oklahoma. Essays may also be printed in “Outdoor Oklahoma,” the official magazine of the Wildlife Department.

“Students from all over Oklahoma have won this contest,” Meek said. “Public school, private school and homeschool students are eligible to enter.”

Two educators also will be awarded all-expenses-paid scholarships for an eight-day conservation education school at Safari Club International’s American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) at Granite Ranch near Jackson, Wyo.

The AWLS program is conducted during the summer and presents an outdoor program for educators that concentrates on natural resource management.

Participants learn about stream ecology, map and compass, language arts and creative writing in an outdoor setting, fly tying, shooting sports, wildlife management, the Yellowstone ecosystem, camping, white-water rafting, educational resources and how to implement outdoor education ideas. Six sessions will be offered June through August 2015.

Essays and applications must be postmarked no later than Nov. 21, and addressed and mailed to: Essay Contest, Education Section Supervisor, ODWC Jenks Office, P.O. Box 1201, Jenks, OK 74037. Hand-delivered entries must arrive by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Jenks office at 201 Aquarium Drive, Jenks. Fax entries will not be accepted.

Essay contest entry forms and teacher scholarship applications are available at www.wildlifedepartment.com/education/writingcomp.htm.

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